Every department has at least one officer who doesn’t quite beat the same drum as the others. His, or her, rhythm is slightly off. They can’t quite fit in no matter how hard they try. Sure, everyone likes this person, and they don’t really do anything that’s too weird, yet they always seem to do, well dumb stuff.

Enter my friend Franklin and his first experience with, well, this …

The honky-tonk nightclub was situated just outside the city limits. They were open for business on Saturday nights only and the place was so popular it didn’t take long for the gravel parking lot to fill to capacity with souped-up cars and dented and dusty pickup trucks with gun racks mounted in the rear windows.

Male patrons slicked their hair with Brylcreem or Butch Wax and they wore their best jeans, Stetson hats, dinner-plate-size belt buckles shaped like the state of Texas or a gun of some sort, and spit-shined cowboy boots made of cow, snake, or gator hide, or a combination of two or more. Sometimes the fancier snake hide adorned boots were reserved for Sunday attire along with a store-bought Sears and Roebuck striped suit and pearly-white socks. Many strapped hunting knives to their belts—their handles carved from deer antlers or hunks of wood cut from trees that once stood on family land.

Women curled and teased their hair until it reached heights only before seen by birds, power company linemen, and airline pilots, and then they loaded it with enough Aqua Net to hold it tightly in place for an entire evening of two-stepping and do-si-doing. They slipped into their finest square-dancing dresses and they waited on their front porches for one of those gussied-up farm trucks to pull into the driveway, and when it did … well, “Yipee ki-yay” the night had begun.

This club, the 95 Dance Hall, allowed brown-bagging (bring your own liquor), otherwise known as BYOB—bring your own bottle—because they didn’t have a license to sell alcohol. but they did supply ice and various mixers/chasers. The ice was freshly cracked from 50 lb blocks purchased that afternoon from the local ice and coal business.

Club workers filled galvanized washtubs with the ice and it was free for the taking, with the price of admission. In addition to counter-wiping and keeping a layer of freshly-scattered sawdust on the floor (the ground wood made for a nice “slicker’d-up dance surface, so I was told), the dancehall staff—the wife of the club owner, their kids, and the wives of the steel guitar sliders and banjo pickers—refilled the large metal containers throughout the evening as the frozen chunks of water melted.

By 10 p.m, the 95 Dance Hall was flat-out jumpin’. The house band, the Virginia Barn Dance Boys, was in high gear—fiddling, steel-guitaring, banjo-pickin’, and yodelin’ to all get out. Fancy dresses twirled. Scuffed boot heels clicked and tapped against the wood flooring. Drinks disappeared. Bottles emptied. Vision blurred and speech slurred. Voices and laughter grew louder and louder. The music became more frantic. The drummer rat-a-tatted at machine gun pace … And then the inevitable happened.

Somebody winked at somebody’s best girl and as quick as a fresh green grass goes through a goose, the place erupted into a free-for-all. Fists. Chairs. More fists. More chairs. Then, a knife. And then some blood. And then a call to the sheriff’s office. “HELP!”

Now’s a good time to introduce you to our department’s “one guy.” Remember the description above … doesn’t quite beat the same drum, etc.?

Okay, this is Franklin (not his real name, of course), a thin black man who was was quiet and somewhat shy, especially around women. He rarely spoke unless spoken to. He wore thick glasses with black rims and his uniform, the brown over tan, was always, without fail, neatly pressed with creases sharp enough to peel an apple and shoes so shiny they reflected moonlight on a cloudy night.

Franklin did not like to get his clothes dirty. In fact, he freaked out if a speck of mud marred the surface of his shoes, and he’d stop whatever he was doing to clean and polish them. He wore a tie even when it wasn’t required. And he did not, absolutely did not, would not, nor ever, exceeded the speed limit. Even when responding to the worst of the worst emergency calls. 55 meant 55 and by God 55 is where the needle stopped. Dead on the double nickels. Not one mile per hour more.

Franklin was my friend. A good friend too. But he was a bit quirky, to say the least.

I’d seen Franklin heading to murders-in-progress with red lights flashing and spinning and flickering, with siren wailing and screaming like a baby with a handful of thumbtacks in their diaper, but the posted speed limit was 45 mph so …

Franklin was an extremely cautious driver in other ways too. He utilized every safe driving tactic taught to him at the academy and he always drove with both hands on the wheel, one positioned at ten and the other at two. His seat was pulled nearly all the way forward and even then he leaned forward so close to the steering wheel that it nearly rubbed his chin at every curve and turn (he couldn’t see very well at night was his explanation for leaning close to the windshield). Blind as a bat is what we all thought.

This particular night there were four of us working the late shift—Franklin, two others, and me—and we were all dispatched to the “fight with weapons call.” Having been to a few of those calls at the nightclub over the years I knew we’d be outnumbered and I knew we’d have to fight, going toe-to-toe with practically every bumpkin in the county who used the opportunity as a free pass to punch a deputy . Therefore, since I’ve never been all that fond of pain, or bleeding, I requested backup from the state police and from a nearby city.

By the time we arrived, the fight had spilled out into the parking lot. So we, three deputies and several backup officers from surrounding jurisdictions, began the task of breaking up the massive brawl, which quickly turned into a “them against us” battle.

We were well into the thick of it when we heard a squalling and yelping siren coming our way. A few seconds later a brown sheriff’s office patrol car rolled slowly into the parking lot with siren and lights still in full “I mean business” mode. It was, of course, Franklin, the fourth member of the night shift.

Seriously, you’ve got to picture this to appreciate it. Fifteen cops and forty or so cowboys going to it in the parking lot. Fists flying, boots kicking, handcuffs clicking, batons swinging, clothing torn and dirty, heads bruised from contact with our lead-filled leather saps and wooden nightsticks, faces bruised and jaws stinging from fists covered with brass knuckles. And Franklin, calmly exiting his police car, then smoothing the wrinkles from his pants before slowly easing toward the massive battle.

Suddenly, it was like he, shiny-shoed Franklin, was sucked into a vacuum. In the blink of an eye, he was pulled into the fracas and was doing his best to restrain, arrest and, well, he was basically doing his best to stop people from hitting him.

We eventually gained control and arrested every fool we could lay our hands on and those troublemakers were hauled away to jail. Those of us who remained on the scene went inside the dance hall to speak with potential witnesses to a couple of pretty nasty stabbings. Franklin was one of the deputies who accompanied me inside.

We were a motley crew to say the least—clothing dirty, shoes scuffed, bloodstains here and there, and cut and bruised and sufficiently battered.

Franklin looked as if he’d been dragged through a hog pen, beaten by club-wielding cave people, and then run through the hand-cranked wringer of his grandmother’s antique washing machine. His glasses sat slightly askew on the bridge of his nose. His upper lip was cut and the lower bruised and swollen.

When we stepped from the darkness into the festive interior of the 95 Dance Hall, the lead guitar player of the Virginia Barn Dance Boys was in the process of calling a square dance. Dancers on the floor dipped and swirled and twirled and ducked and hopped like their lives depended on their actions. They’d paid no attention to what had taken place outside.

The music, if one could call it that, was horrible. The fiddler was busy sawing away at the strings, producing screeches that would cause Poe to lose sleep. The drummer’s timing was off. Way off. First he was a half beat too fast, then his sticks tapped slightly slower than the rest of group’s caterwauling. His right foot pushed the pedal against the bass drum in total out-of-syncness with what his left foot and both hands were trying to do. It was almost if that foot had a mind all it’s own.

The guy on the acoustic guitar apparently had never learned to properly tune his instrument. As a musician myself, the sound tap-danced on the raw ends of my nerves. But the crowd did not care. They were gettin’ it done like dancing was their nine-to-five job. Like the world would end if they didn’t go at it like politicians at an election year fundraiser.

Franklin did not move into the club any further than five feet from the front double wooden doors. He simply stood there blinking his eyes as he looked at the spinning and blinking colored lights. At the dancers. The condensation-covered ice tubs that were now half full of water. Franklin looked like a kid at the circus for the first time.

When we finally wrapped up our investigation and were standing outside in the parking lot beside our respective patrol cars, I asked Franklin if he was okay. His battered lips split into a slightly crooked smile before he said, “I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve never seen so many white people at one time in their own environment. And they were Huck-a-Bucking their asses off. This (he pointed to the club) is just bizarre.”

Franklin shook his head from side to side and turned to walk away, but stopped to look back over his shoulder. He said, “You know I’m going to have nightmares over this, right?” Then he playfully two-stepped back to his car and just before climbing in he raised an arm over his head to give a thumbs-up. He let out a loud, “Yee-Haw!” as he slid into the driver’s seat.

We each stood in silence, and disbelief, that Franklin had displayed some sort of emotion and a bit of humor. It was way out of character for him.

We watched Franklin pull out onto the highway where he sped away, at no more than 45 mph, of course. He tooted his horn twice before rounding the curve that took him out of view.

To this day, whenever I see someone square-dancing on TV I immediately think of Franklin’s descriptive term for those specific gyrations and swirls and twirls.

Huck-A-Bucking, according to Franklin: a traditional dance where participants spin, twirl, stomp, duck, and bow to their partners while semi-following the instructions yelled out to them by a band leader who’s sometimes referred to as a caller. When mixed with alcoholic beverages, huck-a-bucking can quickly switch from fun to fighting. Although, fighting is sometimes considered fun by avid huck-a-buckers. 

Yee-Haw, y’all!

20160224_114510

 

Officer Idu Thebestican feels as if he faces a no-win situation each day he puts on his uniform, and he stopped by today to tell why he feels that way. Here’s what the officer had to say …

Today I found a lost grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a wooded area near a rocky and steep ravine. I sat with her and held her hand until her family arrived to take her home. You didn’t see that.

I got pretty banged up while breaking up a nasty fight between two large men. They were angry over a ref’s call at a kid’s soccer game. You didn’t see that.

A convenience store was robbed by two masked men carrying handguns. I caught one of the robbers after a five-block foot pursuit. He fired a shot at me but missed. Luckily I was able to wrestle the gun from his hand. You didn’t see that.

You didn’t see that!

Two cars crashed head-on, killing everyone inside. I helped remove the bodies, including one of a tiny baby. You didn’t see that.

A bloody face and a broken arm on an eight-year-old girl. Her intoxicated father did that to her and I was there in time to stop him from killing his daughter. I took the punches that were intended for her. You didn’t see that.

I was stabbed and cut in the side by a woman trying to stop me from arresting the husband who’d just beaten her until she was black and blue. It took 30 stitches to close the wound. You didn’t see that.

A drunk man was trapped inside a burning house. I ran in and pulled him out. Burned my hands and face a bit, but the man survived. You didn’t see that.

I changed a flat tire for two elderly woman who were on their way to Florida. It was nearly midnight and they were stranded and alone on the side of a highway. You didn’t see that.

I worked three straight shifts without sleep or meals while trying to catch a guy who’d raped and murdered a teenager. You didn’t see that.

I bought a meal for a homeless man, and then joined him for lunch. He’d served in the military and suffers from severe PTSD. You didn’t see that.

I stopped to throw a few footballs with some young boys. You didn’t see that.

I adopted a needy family at Christmas time and bought them gifts. My wife and I delivered a holiday meal to them. You didn’t see that.

But you chose to see me when I responded to 911 call in your neighborhood, with all of your friends standing around, and you closed in on my personal space with your face just inches from mine to shout, “Murderer!” even though I’ve never killed anyone.

You threw rocks at me while I patrolled your street, trying to keep you safe from robbers, burglars, and killers.

You spit on me while I was arresting a guy in your neighborhood. It didn’t matter to you that he’d just committed an armed robbery of an old lady and that he’d roughed her up and fondled her “private areas.” To you, though, I was the bad guy. “F*** You! All cops are murderers!” you screamed at me while impressionable little children looked on. Those kids had no way of knowing that I’d never pulled my gun from its holster other than to clean it or qualify at the range.

A police officer a thousand miles away did something to dishonor HIS badge, yet you blame me. Why? I didn’t come to arrest you when I caught your friend climbing in that lady’s bedroom window. I don’t run out to punch a random doctor in the face simply because a physician somewhere in Maine botches a surgery on a cop I don’t know personally. It’s not supposed to work that way in a civilized society. Besides you’ll never catch me defending a cop who knowingly breaks the law.

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Here’s what it’s like from my point of view.

When I’m off duty and our kids are on the field playing sports, or we’re both sitting side-by-side at a community picnic and it’s as if we’re best buddies. But the moment I put on the uniform I’m suddenly the enemy. Your enemy. And it’s for no reason—your transformation—other than my clothing and something I didn’t do, that your hatred for me begins to fester and boil over.

Believe me, I don’t change. But you do.

And I see it.

 

Every job has its difficulties. Police work is no different. In fact, I don’t believe there’s another job in the entire world that offers more opportunities to screw up than a career in law enforcement. Think about it. What other business provides its employees with high-powered weapons and live ammunition, a car that you can drive like a $29-dollar-a-day rental, and permission to squirt hot pepper juice in someone’s eyes when all they’ve done is try to bash in your skull? The major problem with each these quirky, but super attractive perks is that they come with a slight disadvantage, the possibility of having to take a human life, or losing your own.

To further complicate the loss of life factor is the split-second decision-making cops are faced with as a part of their everyday routine.

A plumber’s plans are laid out for him—hot on the left, cold on the right, and crap doesn’t flow uphill. Mechanics rely on a little sing-songy phrase about which direction to turn a wrench—Lefty Loosey and Tighty Righty (turn the wrench to the left to remove the bolt, or turn it to the right to tighten it).

But cops often operate in a world of gray. There are no handy-dandy nursery rhymes to guide officers through their tours of duty. But wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing—a happy verse or two  to help relieve some of the pressure?

You know, like …

Police K-9

Hickory, dickory, dock,

The crook pulled out a Glock.

The cop shot once,

The thug fell down.

Hickory, dickory, dock.


Hey diddle diddle,

The crook stole a fiddle,

The thief jumped over the fence,

The little cop laughed to see such fun,

When his dog caught up with the goon.


 

New Picture (3)

This old man, he was dumb,

He sold crack vials to a bum,

In a locked up, paddy wagon,

Throw away the key;

This dumb guy ain’t coming home.


How much crack could a crackhead smoke if a crackhead could smoke crack?


Georgie Porgie, a ped-o-phile,

Kissed the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie lost his mind.


Jack and Sam Went Up the Street,

To sell a stolen gun.

Jack took off and ran away,

So Sam went pocket picking.


Jim Plott could smoke no pot

His wife could snort no coke.

And so betwixt the two of them

They both stayed free and clean.


Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,

Catch a robber by the toe.

When he hollers, take the dough,

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.


Here We Go Round the Gangster’s House

Here we go round the gangster’s house,

The gangster’s house,

The gangster’s house,

Here we go round the gangster’s house,

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we kick their doors,

Kick their doors,

Kick their doors.

This is the way we kick their doors

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we cuff their wrists,

Cuff their wrists,

Cuff their wrists.

This is the way we cuff their wrists,

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we lock them up,

Lock them up,

Lock them up,

This is the way we lock them up,

So early in the morning.

 

Here we go round the streets again,

The streets again,

The streets again.

Here we go round the streets again,

So early in the morning.


Tinkle tinkle little drunk,

How I wonder why you pee.

On the seat inside my car,

Like a river it does flow.

 

When you finish you then puke,

Vodka, whiskey, beer and rum,

Then you cuss and spit and fight,

Tinkle tinkle just ain’t right.


Little Boy’n Blue, put on your vest,

The crook’s in the shadows, the gun’s in his hand.

Where is the cop who looks after your back?

He’s lying in the alley, barely alive.

Will you go back? Yes, you must,

For if you don’t, he’s sure to die.


Polly Peters snatched a stack of speckled spectacles. Did Polly Peters snatch the stack of speckled spectacles?

If Polly Peters snatched a stack of speckled spectacles, where’s the stack of speckled spectacles Polly Peters snatched?


Pease-porridge hot, Pease-porridge cold,

Pease-porridge in the pot, nine days old;

Some liked it hot, left out to rot,

Some ate from the pot, died on the spot.


Finally, to the tune of “Five Little Indians” …

 

Five little bad guys punching on his head,

Man fell down and hit the ground.

Witness called the po-leece and the message said,

“We’re defunded ain’t nobody here.”


I know, I’m goofy …

 

Takin' Bacon

Last weekend at MurderCon, one of the classes wound up in a lively discussion about the crime of beastiality (having sex with animals). The presenter, an experienced and entertaining homicide detective from the south, waded into the topic like a true professional, and even explained to the group, the term “stump broke.”


Stump BrokeAn animal who’s trained to back up to a stump where a height-challenged man stands with his pants around his ankles, waiting to have passionate sex with the four-legged beast. 


This sad but true “tale,” “Takin’ Bacon” is about an unpleasant, icky case I once worked.

*** I. HAVE. SEEN. THINGS. ***

I know many of you have already heard the story, so please bear with me as I share it with those who haven’t.

Here goes …

Takin’ Bacon

Crime-solving is not always as easy as television would have us believe. Sometimes police officers really have to work hard to get to the bottom of a particularly complex case.

Cops use a variety of means to crack each of their cases, and one really unusual series of events comes to mind when I think about out-of-the-box methods I’d used during my career.

As most of you know, I was a police detective for many years, and part of my job was to solve major crimes, such as murder, rape, and robbery. Sure, I paid my dues early in my career by writing tickets and directing traffic, but my real passion was the puzzle-solving that’s associated with tracking down murderers.

In the Beginning

Before most detectives are allowed to investigate the more serious crimes, though, they’re normally assigned to easier-to-solve, less intricate cases, such as bad checks and stolen tricycles.

One of my introductory cases was unusual to say the least. It came during my time working as a sheriff’s deputy, and my boss at the time, a gruff and tough-as-rusty-nails sheriff, dispatched me to get to the bottom of a rash of stolen hogs. No, not the cool and expensive motorcycles—real pigs, as in walking, oinking pork chops.

Someone was stealing live four- or five-hundred pound porkers directly from a farmer’s hog farm, and they were taking at least one or two each weekend. The pigs (hundreds upon hundred of them) were kept in many buildings on the large farm, so my partner and I thought the best way to nab these guys was to wait inside one of the elaborate hog parlors until the criminals arrived to do their dirty deed. Our plan was simple; when the crooks entered the building we would jump up, turn on the lights, and nab the ham-rustlers in the act of felony pig-napping.

“The” Weekend

Friday finally arrived and just before dark we entered one of the hog shelters and sat down on a pair of overturned 5-gallon buckets—one apiece—where we waited for the crooks to show up. I quickly discovered that the combined stench of pig feces and urine and other foul goodies were absolutely overwhelming. I also learned that pigs are sneaky and extremely curious, and that they have very cold and very wet and gross noses. Not to mention the fact that the odor clings to your clothing and shoes and refuses to go away.

We’d been hanging out in the dark, surrounded by fat sows, for nearly two hours when we finally heard the creaky sound of rusty springs stretching as someone open a plywood door near the center of the building.

A bit of moonlight spilled inside and then disappeared as the door closed behind who or whomever had entered the pig parlor. My partner and I both drew our weapons and waited, allowing the thieves enough time to begin the act of stealing. We wanted to catch them with ham hocks in hand.

There was a period of time where we heard two voices, but they were muffled by the sound of low-pitched pig grunts and oinks. The men used a small flashlight to help find their way to the center of the area, a place that was packed with so many hogs that it sort of resembled a concert arena on a night when Taylor Swift or Beyonce’ or Elton John performs. It was Pig-a-Palooza and Pigstock rolled into one.

We figured the bandits were being selective, choosing just the right pigs—this little pig or that little pig—that would fetch top dollar at the market.

Then and unexpectedly, a bright light flashed. Then another flash followed by another and another. I realized, detective material that I was, that the bad guys were taking pictures.

Confused by their actions, but anxious to catch the guys, we couldn’t stand it any longer. So we hopped up, aimed our Beretta 9mms in the general direction of the thugs, and switched on the lights.

I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that one of the young men was standing directly behind a female pig—a sow, as they’re properly addressed—with his pants down around his ankles and resting atop the goop on the slatted floor (the space between the slats is where pig most waste falls into a deep and smelly pit).

I was even more startled when I realized the man was actually having sex with a big, fat and dirty female pig, and his buddy was taking pictures of him while he did it.

They both stopped what they were doing, in mid-action, and looked toward us. Each man had the same deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression.

(Not the actual suspect)

(Not the actual victim)

We immediately placed the two crooks under arrest and took them to the sheriff’s office for processing (that’s “booking” to laypeople.) During my questioning of the guy who’d been caught with his pants down, the embarrassed animal lover confessed to stealing over one-hundred pigs from several different farms over the past few weeks, and that they’d taken their “booty” to hog markets and sold them for a nice profit.

At the end of his confession, the pig-stealer shook his head and asked how we found out they were going to be there that night. He added that they’d been extremely careful not to leave behind an evidence trail of any kind.

I smiled because the perfect answer crept forward from that goofy spot in my head. I looked at the guy and said, “How did we know you were coming?  It’s simple, the pig squealed on you.”

He just shook his head slowly from side-to-side. After all, what could he have said to justify his little affair with Petunia?

I really should mention that the thief was married, and he wasn’t practicing safe sex with his porcine partners, if you know what I mean. So, if you’re ever having a bad day, just be really thankful that you’re not married to this guy. Unless you don’t mind that his idea of bringing home the bacon is just a bit “different” than that of normal folks.

By the way, I learned that the purpose of the pig pornography (each man photographed the other having sex with a pig) was insurance so that neither of the two men would tell on the other. If one were to snitch he’d face having the photograph sent to family members.  What I didn’t understand was why they felt the need to have a barnyard affair each time they stole a pig. Wouldn’t one photo be enough?

And I truly hope that you’ll think of this curly little “tale” the next time you’re tossing a couple of juicy pork chops onto the grill …

 

How many times have we all heard that truth is much more difficult to believe than actual events? Well, let me be the next person in line to confirm that statement.

Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, these folks picked up the phone and dialed 911. And yes, I was the unfortunate officer who responded to these “emergency” calls.


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Help me, please!”

“Ma’am, calm down and tell me what’s wrong.”

“My house is on fire. I just moved in today and turned on the heat and, and, and, that big metal thing in my living room caught on fire, please huuurrrrryyy! There are flames inside and it’s getting hot! Huuurrrryyy!!! Oh, God, oh God, oh God … MY CAT’S GONNA DIE!”

Okay, so she’s standing there on the front porch with the front door wide open. It’s 20 degrees outside and all she’s wearing  was a t-shirt. Nothing but a t-shirt. And she’s crying and screaming and begging me to go inside to rescue her cat, a cat that was trapped inside the inferno.

I step inside.

“See, it’s on fire. Look through that little glass and you can see the flames.”

“Ma’am, that’s your heater. It uses fire to warm your home. It’s perfectly safe.”

That’s when she realized she was wearing nothing “butt” a t-shirt.

I blushed and departed … quickly.


“911, what’s your emergency?”

“I think my house is on fire.”

“You think your house is on fire? Do you see flames or smoke?”

“No, but my wall’s hot. Would you please send someone over to check it out?”

I go to the door, peek inside, and see the gentleman sitting on his couch watching Jeopardy.

I knock.

“Thanks for coming officer. My house may be on fire. The wall is hot. See. Feel right here.”

“Sir, you have a roaring fire going in the fireplace. Naturally, the wall above it may get a little warm.”

“Thank you, officer. That never occurred to me.”


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Please help me! I’ve been locked inside my bedroom for several hours and can’t get out. I’m getting really hungry, too. And I’m pregnant. Please help me!”

I break a small glass beside the front door and turn the deadbolt latch (see how easy it would be for burglars. Please use/ install a keyed deadbolt for better security, but remove the key from the lock). I open the front door and go inside. Sure enough, she’s locked inside the master bedroom.

She’s crying.

“I think I’m going to lose my baby because I’m so upset.”

More sobbing.

“Ma’am, did you try turning the little button in the center of the knob?”

Silence.

Click.

“I think I have it now. Thank you for coming by.”


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Yeah, um … could you send a cop over here right away, please. I just moved into this apartment and can’t figure out how to turn up the cold water temperature on my kitchen sink. It’s too cold and the landlord won’t help. He just hangs up on me.”

I politely explain to the gentleman that water temperatures are not a true emergency and that cold water temperatures occur naturally. They are what they are because tap water is piped directly from the city. He responds by telling me that I’m a waste of taxpayer money and that I’m part of the reason the country is going down the toilet, another place where the water temperature is non-adjustable.


Finally, my once or twice monthly 911 call.

“911, what’s your—“

“You gotta send someone over right away. Elvis is back inside my refrigerator and he won’t stop singing. He keeps up that wild racket all night long.”


And, while working in plainclothes, I sometimes heard …

“Are you a cop? Because if you are you have to tell me now that I’ve asked. You’re not 5-0? Cool. Now we can do business. You say you want two kilos … hey, wait a minute, you can’t arrest me because you lied about being a cop. This isn’t legal.”

I’m the old guy at the end of the street. The Grumpy Gus who doesn’t want kids in his yard. In fact, I don’t want to hear their squeals and the squalls or their giggles and games. I don’t want to see their toy cars and trucks, their skateboards, basketballs, and pigtails and buzzcuts. None of it. I do not want them in my yard. Nor do I want them in my driveway scrawling cutesy multi-colored chalk pictures across the concrete. I don’t even want them playing in front of my house.

The neighbors talk. They don’t like me because I don’t step outside to chat when they pass by while walking their four-legged pee and crap machines who leave little “bundles of joy” on my property, offensive “stuff” I have to scoop up. I know they leave it on purpose.

The people who live on my street, the adults, think I’m odd. Crazy, some say. They point and they whisper when they see me rolling my garbage cans to the curb each Tuesday evening.

The children won’t stop coming into my yard. They enjoy taunting me. They’re bullies, but in miniature size. They toss my landscaping rocks out into the street and they uproot the accent lighting around my trees and shrubs. They write on my sidewalk and they spray-paint the sides of my car. They’ve scratched both car doors, using a nail or something of the sort, and they steal mail from the mailbox and then scatter it along the street.

I used to like kids. Really, I did. All ages and sizes too. I adored their precious little smiles and their innocent questions and nonstop chatter. I enjoyed watching them play. They made me smile. The sounds of their giggles and yowls and shrieks were like music to my ears.

My house, in fact, was once the hub of activity for the neighborhood kids. They came to play with my two children, Seth and Sarah. They’re both grown now, though, with kids of their own, and they moved away many years ago, long before my current neighbors moved in. I’m the last of the original homeowners in my development.

My new neighbors are strangers. They don’t know a single thing about me. They didn’t know me back when I was still in uniform patrolling the interstate highways and county roads. They didn’t know me on the day when I was stabbed three times—one wound to the head, one in the hand, and the other in my right shoulder. They weren’t around when the house on Maple was fully engulfed in flames and I went in and pulled out the old man trapped inside. Sure, I lost some hair and earned a couple of nasty burns, but the gentleman survived and he stops by to see me once in a while.

My neighbors …. well, they don’t know about the incident that started the “kids in the yard” thing.

It was a Wednesday night. My report indicated the the weather was clear, but no moonlight. Road conditions were also clear, and dry. No obstructions. Nothing, including skid marks. There were none.

When I arrived, a citizen was standing by. She’d called it in. Had to drive to a nearby country store to use the payphone hanging on the wall outside, next to the Coke machine. I’d passed by it a million times.

The car was fully engulfed in flames.

The driver was obviously deceased. The woman on the passenger side, well, her head was missing. I later found it lying in the ditch, staring up at me after I pulled a stand of weeds to the side to better see the object hidden at their base.

Three children occupied the backseat. We didn’t know this until after the firefighters extinguished the blaze.

I only knew about one of the rear seat occupants—a little girl. The medical examiner later told me she was seven-years-old. Hers was the only face I could see through the boiling black smoke and yellow-orange fire with heat was so intense it burned my eyebrows and the hair on my arms before I ever reached the car.

Fifteen feet. That’s as close as I could get without being severely burned.

But she was screaming. “Help me, please!”

Her sweet face was knotted in agony. Her eyes … I’ve read it in books before, “Her eyes pleaded with him,” but I never truly grasped what those authors had in mind when they penned the words … until I stood helpless before a girl whose tiny doe eyes pleaded with me to rescue her from the hell she was experiencing.

Tires deflated and dissolved. Paint bubbled like hot tar. The asphalt beneath the burning car melted like butter dancing and sizzling in a hot skillet. Glass shattered. Flames crackled and buzzed and things inside the car popped and fizzed and banged and settled. Car seats burned like fireplace logs. In the middle of of all of this sat the little girl, clawing at the scorching-hot metal car door.

I pushed through the heat and smoke and I tried to grab the child. I tried to open the door but  it was like grabbing molten lava. I reached for her and she for me. But …

She screamed and she screamed and she screamed.

And then she was calm, and the screaming stopped.

Her pitiful cries for help still haunt me to this day.

So does the fact that I failed to save her.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. I love them. I really do.

I just can’t take the sounds they make, or seeing their happy faces.

They remind me that I failed that little seven-year-old child.

That sweet little face.

I see it every time one of those kids comes into my yard, or when they play in the street in front of my house.

That sweet little face.

So that’s why I’m the old guy at the end of the street.

Because it hurts.

*This tale is based on a ton of fact, but presented in a fictional sort of way. Yes, it’s most definitely true, but it’s about a lot of people, not just Grumpy Gus.

Gus, by the way, is very close to me. Extremely close …

Has political correctness gone amuck in the world of cops and robbers?  After hearing this radio transmission, I’d say yes.

“Be on the Lookout for a morally challenged subject who’s a rube-esque prone repetitive exterminator of respirations and pulse. Subject described as follicularly challenged and metabolic phenomenon. Use caution. He is a person with a flesh perforating corpuscle leaker.”

10-2. Morally Challenged Subject: Bad guy

10-3. Person of Unsavory Qualities: Crook

10-4. Understand Request/Statement: Okay

10-5. Residentially Challenged Individual/Displaced Homeowner: Homeless Person

10-6. Authenticity Challenged Subject: Insane Person

10-7. Exterminator of Respirations and Pulse: Murderer

10-8. Repetitive Exterminator of Respirations and Pulse : Serial killer

10-9. Rube-esque Prone: Redneck

10-10. Sexually-Focused Intelligence Gatherer: Peeping Tom

10-11. Mechanically Challenged Automobile: Disabled Vehicle

10-12. Intra-Species Diner: Cannibal

10-13. Living Impaired Upon Disembarkation: DOA (Dead on Arrival)

10-14. Aquatically Challenged Subject: Person Who’s Drowning 

10-15. Chemically Challenged/Inconvenienced: Drug Addict 

10-16. Life Inhibited: Dead

10-32. Person with Flesh Perforating Corpuscle Leaker: Man with Gun

10-33. Crisis Insistent Situation: Emergency

10-36. Appropriate Allotment on Chronograph: Correct Time

10-37. Involuntarily Terminated: Assassinated

10-38. Undocumented Apothecary: Drug Dealer

10-39. Undocumented Acquisitions Expert: Burglar

10-40. Temporary Guest of Government Housing: Prison/Jail Inmate

10-41. Wealth Redistribution Expert: Robber

10-42. Public Service Bonus: Kickback/Bribe

10-43. Population Control Expert: Mass Murderer

10-44. Unplanned Retrospection of Recent Meal Selections: Vomiting

10-45. Metabolic Phenomenon: Fat

10-88. Follicularly Challenged: Bald

10-100. Urgent Need to Eliminate Food and Drink Byproducts: Restroom Break

*Please remember that 10-Codes vary from one area to another. 10-4?

Also, let’s hope that neither of these goofy codes are in use, but these days, well, you never know what to expect. 

 

Due to the passing of our daughter, Ellen, I will be out of the office for another week. Denene and I need time to ourselves to process this heartbreaking and devastating loss. I cannot begin to express how much I miss her. Ellen was a Daddy’s girl.

I thank everyone who’s reached out to me to express condolences and other kind words. I’ve read each comment posted to social media, both public comments and private messages. Actually, I’ve read them more than once. Your words provide comfort during these difficult days. Emotions have not yet allowed me to respond, but please know that I deeply appreciate the love and support.

 

Today I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes of this blog. Yes, this site has tons of moving parts that require many creative minds and many hands to turn the dials, push the buttons, and flip the switches. So without further ado …

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins is in charge of our patrol division. It is he who offers details of traffic stops, responses to various types of calls, training information, etc. His teams also provide security in and around our property.

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins

Our two sharp-dressed cops, Rusty and Willie, provide backup during all dangerous situations that may occur during the writing of blog articles.

Sharp-dressed cops Rusty and Willie,

Our in-the-field reporter, Jerry “Fake News” Journalyss.

Jerry “Fake News” Journalyss.

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken” Davis handles all calls involving runaway animals, cases of animal abuse, chicken theft, and more.

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken” Davis

Third Shift Watch Commander, Lt. L. Arge Rat.

Lt. L. Arge Rat

Larry “The Knife” Johnson, a master of disguise, plays the parts of a few bad guys on the site.

Larry “The Knife” Johnson

Paulie “The Painter” appears as himself.

Paul the Painter

Bad Breath Bill played himself during an article about edged weapons. Larry “The Knife” Johnson joined him in the post.

Bad Breath Bill

Major Mechanical serves as Chief Deputy.

Major Mechanical

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy, a regular on the site, teamed up to teach us about crime-fighting robots.

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy

Facilities manager, Rosie, maintains a clean website—no profanity and no discussions of hot-button issues, such as politics, race, religion, etc.

Rosie

The Man in the Moon supervises the daytime operations of Graveyard Shift.

Man in the Moon

For some reason, and we don’t know why, this weasel pops in from time to time.

Weasel “popping”

Today, nothing and no one are safe from scandal. These two, Betty and Billy, for example, have been at it for quite a while now. We’ve threatened to fire them but they cannot seem to control their emotions.

The “pucker factor” sometimes causes strange reactions.

Harry “Hot Sauce” McGee is our resident expert on non-lethal weapons.

Harry “Hot Sauce” McGee delivers the “Juice”

“The Hand” appears throughout the site. Here we see him demonstrating the proper procedure for “drawing” a gun.

“Drawing” a service weapon

As a precaution, we routinely sweep the site for things that go boom, and other hazards. Here we see Beauregard the Bomb Dog doing what he does best.

Beauregard the Bomb Dog

To teach us about Rigor and Livor, the Mortis Twins, we brought in world-renowned death expert Frankie Stein.

Frankie Stein

Our aquatics experts, Dewey D. Duck and Ronnie Raft.

Dewey D. Duck (upper right) and Ronnie Raft (lower left, bottom, sides, and rear).

Dewey’s 1st cousin, “Three-Eye” is our resident surveillance expert.

Three-Eye

Guarding us around the clock is Police K-9 Sha-Key. Never felt safer in my life.

K-9 Sha-Key

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom are on-hand to detail the effects of bioterrorism.

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom

Skeeter Simpson teaches us about bloodstain patterns.

World-renowned bloodstain pattern expert Skeeter Simpson

Of course, to maintain the grounds of the Graveyard Shift compound, we employ top professionals that include horticulture expert Gilly Goat.

Gilly Goat

Website repairperson and master carpenter Harry Hammer is never happy when links are broken.

Harry “The Frown” Hammer

Crime Scene Experts, Grant Greenfly and Bobby Blowflow, always know the finest of details. They’re like, well, flies on the wall.

Crime Scene Expert Grant Greenfly

Crime Scene Expert Bobby Blowfly

Sergeant Sam Stinkfeet is a real pro at evidence collection and preservation.

Sergent Sam Stinkfeet

Hematology expert O. Positive, along with a rare visit by renowned scientist B. Negative, provided much-needed information about blood evidence.

Hematology experts O. Positive and B. Negative

Officer survival expert Fred Fish taught us of the dangers associated with tunnel vision.

Fred Fish

The “Yelling Woman,” played by Laura Largelungs, is featured throughout the site as the person/witness who’s screaming nonstop … at crime scenes, he-said/she-saids, domestic calls, at, well, everywhere. She/he is the person who “loses it” no matter the situation. And they never fail to get in the way at every step.

Laura Largelungs screams, “Help, poleeeece!”

Larry Lipzipper – Miranda expert.

Larry Lipzipper rehearsing his lines. “You have the right to remain silent. Use it!”

The part of the villain is played by actor Carl Cockroach.

Carl Cockroach, in character.

Prison information provided by Calvin Convict.

Calvin Convict

Weak Walter often describes the thought processes and actions of criminal suspects who enjoy fighting the police, but aren’t very good at it.

Weak Walter 

Our staff of law experts, led by by Judge I. Have Power, are always on standby to weed through legal issues.

Judge I. Have Power

Howard Hacker, our cyber crimes expert, is on standby to answer all questions.

Cyber crimes expert Howard Hacker

As you can see, The Graveyard Shift is well-staffed by a slew of top experts. Without them we’d be just another blog.

Of course, there are many other experts who walk our hallways and occupy the offices of our elaborate compound. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time or space to showcase each of them today. And, there are many more characters experts on the way, and you’ll soon them and some of our regulars in places other than this blog. As they say … STAY TUNED!


MURDERCON

REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

2021 MurderCon takes writers behind the scenes, into actual murder cases where you’ll learn intricate crime-solving details, including how creepy-crawling insects assist detectives.

To help add a special twist to your crime novels, one of the world’s leading forensic entomologists, DR. JASON H. BYRD,  is scheduled to present a spectacular presentation called Forensic Entomology: Utilizing Insects in Criminal Investigations.”

In this session you’ll learn how “Insects that inhabit human tissue in postmortem situations can play a valuable part in death investigations. You’ll also learn how experts use medicocriminal entomology to help determine time of death, establish the geographical location where a death likely occurred, link suspects to victims, and even offer a different source of toxicology and DNA evidence. is an entertaining and educational discussion of the history of homicidal poisoning from the days of early man, down to the present, with case discussions of real poisoners drawn from criminal history. Also discussed will be the psychology of the poisoner, and poisons used by writers in their fictional works.”

Other MurderCon classes include forensic botany, cold cases, active homicide investigations, fingerprinting difficult surfaces (wet, sticky, etc.), case studies of the FBI, and much more.

I strongly urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn details not typically available for non-law enforcement.

MurderCon is a “killer” event!

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Seats at this unique event for writers are LIMITED!

Depending upon which source is believed to be correct—Social Security or the census—Johnson Vandyke “Van” Grigsby was born in either February of 1888 or February of 1886, respectively. Grigsby, the son of freed slaves, however, said March of 1885 was the month and year of his birth.

In 1900, Grigsby and his family moved from their home in Shelby County, Kentucky to Kokomo, Indiana, the county seat of Howard County. Seven years later, Grigsby, an African-American, killed a white man named James Brown. The pair had been playing a game of five card stud poker in a saloon in Anderson, IL. when the two men engaged in a fight.

During the altercation, the men, as men often do, cursed at one another. Then racial slurs were uttered. As the fracas became intensely heated, Brown pulled a knife on Van. So Van left the bar to retrieve a knife of his own. When Van returned Brown picked up a chair and threw it at him. In response, Van lunged at Brown, with his knife, and subsequently stabbed Brown to death.

Grigsby, as the story goes, plead guilty to second degree murder in order to escape the electric chair.

Convicted of second degree murder in 1908, Grigsby began a new and extremely long chapter in life when he was delivered in a horse-drawn cart to the Indiana State Penitentiary in Michigan City. The trip lasted several days.

When he arrived at the prison on August 8, 1908, the same year the four-cylinder, twenty-horsepower Model T was first offered and sold for $825, Grigsby left behind his life as a free man and became “prisoner #4045.”

Upon his release in December 1974, inmate Grigsby had served 66 long years in the penitentiary, with 50 or so of those years spent in a ward for the insane. A doctor, though, finally examined him and declared that he was “not crazy.”

In spite of being a model prisoner who passed the time by reading (and re-reading) the Bible, a dictionary, and a complete set of encyclopedias from A_Z, he’d applied for parole 33 times before finally being released.

As a free man once again, Grigsby had to adjust to life on “the outside” as someone who’d been secluded from the world for nearly seven decades. While Grigsby’s former daily life had consisted of staring at concrete and steel and barbed wire, life beyond the prison walls passed him by, and when he finally stepped outside the front gate an entirely new world was there to greet him. The stark differences were surely like the moment in the Wizard of Oz film when things instantly transformed from black and white to vivid color. There were no subtle changes.

*The Wizard of Oz premiered on the big screen in 1939, eventually making its way to television in 1956. Grigsby was behind bars for both. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the film, was born in 1922 and died in 1969. Her entire life and career took place during Grigsby’s period of incarceration.

In fact, during Grigsby’s time inside, he’d missed such “firsts” as …

    • The first candy apple.
    • The introduction of Skee ball (my favorite beach boardwalk arcade game).
    • The invention of gin rummy.
    • Erector sets.
    • The painting of marker lines on roadways.
    • Electric blankets.
    • The first traffic lights.
    • Fortune cookies.
    • Hamburger buns.
    • Lincoln logs.
    • Supermarkets.
    • Tow trucks.
    • Light switches.
    • Grocery bags.
    • Toasters
    • Eskimo pies.
    • Band-Aids.
    • Water skiing.
    • Bulldozers.
    • Cotton swabs.
    • Cheeseburgers.
    • Gas chamber executions.
    • Masking tape.
    • Tilt-a-Whirl.
    • Corn dogs.
    • Recliners.
    • Bubble gum.
    • Ice cube trays.
    • Reuben sandwiches.
    • Sunglasses.
    • The first frozen food.
    • Car radios.
    • Chocolate chip cookies.
    • Electric guitars.
    • Golf carts.
    • Trampolines.
    • Parking meters.
    • Stock car racing.
    • Shopping carts.
    • Beach balls.
    • Soft-serve ice cream.
    • Yield signs.
    • Twist ties.
    • Deodorant.
    • Slinkies.
    • Tupperware
    • Credit cards.
    • Cat litter
    • Hairspray.
    • Cable television
    • Frisbees.
    • Coolers.
    • Wetsuits.
    • Barcodes.
    • WD-40
    • Ziplock bags.
    • Radar guns
    • The first man on the moon.
    • The FBI was established only one month prior to Grigsby’s incarceration.
    • 13 U.S. presidents had come and gone.
    • National Anthem was adopted.
    • U.S. engagement in Korean and Vietnam Wars began and ended.
    • Alaska and Hawaii became U.S. states.
    • Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
    • President Kennedy was assassinated.
    • Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Grigsby’s entire life passed by in dreary stagnation while the world continued to rapidly spin and twirl and advance in gigantic leaps and bounds. Is it any wonder that when his feet did finally hit the pavement outside he’d stepped into a world that was unrecognizable to him. By the way, the first ready-mix load of concrete was delivered in Baltimore, Md. in 1913. The Hoover Dam, made of concrete, was constructed in 1936.

It must’ve been like finding oneself on a distant planet … a new world filled with magic and awe. He most likely saw a traffic light for the first time in his life. Music and art and speech, and cars, and trains, and stores and, well, everything—all brand new and shiny and spinning and flashing and whirling and whirring.

He was a 90 year old man who was launched directly from 1908 nearly 70 years into the future, a world where he was instantly expected to adapt. But, as should have been expected, Grigsby found himself unable to cope with such drastic change and voluntarily returned to prison, where he remained for 17 additional months before he was again released. This time, though, at the age of 91, he was out for good. He ended up in the Marion County Health Care Center, though, where he found much comfort at being told when to get up, when to eat, when to bathe, and when to go to bed. This being the only way he knew to live and to survive.

Grigsby’s situation is all too familiar to many men and women who serve long periods of time behind bars. Time, people, and life pass swiftly by, leaving long-serving ex-prisoners confused and lonely and, upon their release, they find it difficult to obtain employment in a world that’s unlike the one they knew prior to incarceration.

The stigma of being a convicted felon is already a huge hurdle to overcome when job searching, but add to it the lack of modern day skills and sudden forced adjustment to the unknowns makes the effort almost insurmountable without a hand up from friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s commonplace that friends and family have long since turned their backs on the folks serving extensive prison terms. That, and decent housing and educational opportunities are often unattainable for felons.

Therefore, the exasperated former inmates often see no way to survive without returning to what they know … criminal activity.

For these people to survive as productive citizens, somewhere, somehow, sometime, someone has to offer a true second chance. They need the opportunity to hold their heads high and not hang them down in shame for the balance of their time on earth. A means to earn back their rights and to remove the “scarlet letters” from their chests.

Of course, we all realize that some of these folks will never change and prison is, without a doubt, the best place for them. But others do regret the bad choices they’ve made, and they do indeed want and welcome change.

But to forever brand former prisoners, and to not provide a support system that keeps them current with the times and technology is, well, it’s not good for them nor is it good for society.


Johnny Cash told Grigsby’s story in a song called Michigan City Howdy Do..